|Korea to a T|
In this, our last look at Korea, we explore the Ts - temples. tea, ties, trends, tofu - and a turtle!
Korean Buddhist temples have always been built without nails so that they could be dismantled and moved. The outside eaves, the inside rafters and the ceilings are covered with intricate Dancheong patterns, the particular style used to decorate Korean temples.
The lotus flower is an often repeated motif. This common symbol found in Buddhist paintings, appears in many forms. It is seen as being a spiritual metaphor as the lotus grows from mud (representing ignorance) to the clear sunlight (representing enlightenment).
For an authentic experience, Templestay is a great option. Stay in a Buddhist Temple, join early morning prayers, learn lantern-making and calligraphy and enjoy special vegetarian temple meals. The program began in 2002 for the FIFA World Cup period and was so popular there are now temples all over the country involved in the program. Rates for an overnight stay include all meals and activities.
Symmetry is very important in the layout of the temples and the courtyards between the various buildings, often with very old trees, are quiet and lovely places to rest or meditate.
On the main temple beams and among the rafters, interwoven between the patterns, you will find pictures of spirits, ancient monks, Bodhisattvas and dragons.
Most temples are easily accessible and people may come here to light a candle or pray in the middle of their busy days.
Although traditional tea ceremonies are an important part of Korean temple life. there are cafes and tea houses such as this quaint courtyard one where you may enjoy everything from a plain green tea to persimmon or ginger or herbal concoctions.
There is a very definite etiquette to performing the tea ceremony or darye which originated in temples centuries ago.
In the Hanuk Folk Village in Jeonju there are many artisans and small shops. This one was selling ties. Nothing surprising in that, you say, but these were made from paper! Nearby visitors could watch how the beautiful sheets of paper used for calligraphy were made.
This restaurant serves only tofu - soya bean curd. The menu shows some of the dishes on offer - including ice cream and doughnuts.
But modern Korea is not immune to trends, either. McDonalds is here to stay and offering much the same food as it does worldwide. Local youth find it just as attractive too, it seems.
This Seoul restaurant takes another tack and serves Italian food, featuring garlic. Mad for Garlic originated in Korea in 2001, and is one of Korea’s most popular restaurant chains.
Because turtles live longer than other animals, they symbolize longevity. Koreans believed that turtles had the power to predict the future and turtle images often form the base of steles or monuments. This turtle in a street in Jeonju represents perhaps the greatest T of all in Korea. TRADITION!